My #2017MakeNine challenge: the results

#2017MakeNine results

So, it’s New Year’s Eve and a traditional time to take stock of what’s gone on in the past year. Okay, here in the UK it’s also a traditional time to get drunk and stay up till the small hours, partying, but there’s not going to be any of that for me this year, that’s for sure! I expect to be in bed by 11 🙂

I posted my initial #2017MakeNine challenge back in January, choosing categories of garment rather than specific patterns as I wanted to find as many TNT patterns as I could to flesh out my me-made wardrobe and liked the flexibility of setting it up that way. Here’s all my finished makes for the different categories (click on the pics to be taken to the original posts): Continue reading “My #2017MakeNine challenge: the results”

My #SewingTop5 of 2017: the (non-sewing) highlights

This year I’m taking part in the #SewingTop5 challenge again, and you can find the first post (reflections on my sewing in 2017) here. So, to balance that out, here’s the non-sewing highlights of the year 🙂

1: Up the duff again

Yes, I can’t seem to stop having children! Continue reading “My #SewingTop5 of 2017: the (non-sewing) highlights”

My #SewingTop5 of 2017: reflections on a busy year

This year I’m taking part in the lovely Gillian’s #SewingTop5 challenge again, as I found it a really good way to summarise my year last time, and it replaces longer, waffley navel-gazing posts. You can find last year’s posts here (goals, reflections and other highlights) and here (hits and misses).

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 reflections on my sewing year:

1: Knit Fabric Mastery

2017 really was the year I attained total confidence sewing knit fabrics. I’ve tackled a range of different types of fabric, and figured out the best ways to sew tricky knits. I’ve also got much more happy with hacking patterns to get what I want out of them and have built up a few TNT patterns for knits, which is great. I’m really happy I’ve persevered with knits as they’re so quick and easy to sew, and so comfy to wear. I really am wearing me-made pretty much every day now!

2: The Curated Closet

The most life-changing book of 2017 for me. That sounds a bit shallow, somehow, but honestly, figuring out my personal style preferences was a lightbulb moment and it’s made my subsequent sewing planning so much more fun. I now know that I’m pretty much guaranteed to love what I make so long as I stick to my style guidelines. That doesn’t mean I won’t be reviewing those every year, or occasionally trying new things, though. Life would get boring if I didn’t do a bit of experimentation!

3: Sewing Journals Rule!

Okay, so maybe this was actually the most life-changing book for me: my humble sewing journal. At some point in early 2017 I started keeping a sewing journal, in which I make notes of future projects I might want to make, blogs I want to write, and detailed sheets with swatches for every garment I actually sew. In the summer I discovered bullet journaling and my journal belatedly acquired a proper index, which made it much easier to use. I will write a blog post about my journalling habits at some point soon, as I’d definitely encourage anyone hesitating about keeping one to give it a go. I’m so much more organised about my sewing now and I swear that journal has helped make me so much more productive. I’m now on journal #2, and it’s a habit I intend to keep up long-term.

4: Instagram and challenges FAIL!

One thing I started doing this year was lots of challenges–I had the idea that they’d be a great way to make new sewing friends and gain blog followers. However, the vast majority of them ended up falling by the wayside as I want to be able to sew what I want to sew. The challenges that I kept up with and really enjoyed were Me Made May and #2017MakeNine, largely because they were the kind of challenge where I set my own goals. I think I’m just too rebellious to follow someone elses rules! I’ll aim to do both again this next year, although with a baby due in early May, the Me Made May participation could be somewhat patchy…

I’ve also realised that microblogging on Instagram is not my favourite thing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots I love about Instagram and I won’t be leaving anytime soon–I was one of the really early adopters and I’ve had my account for years–but I’m not into giving loads of details about what I’m sewing and in-progress shots. Kudos to those of you who do, but it’s not really for me. I prefer wordy blog posts I can write on a proper keyboard 🙂

5: The Unintended RTW Fast

I’ve heard about sewists going on RTW (ready to wear, ie, shop-bought clothing) fasts before, but it’s not something I’ve ever felt a need for myself. I’m not a big consumer of fast fashion at the best of times, and I could never see the point in banning myself from the occasional purchase if it was something I didn’t want to make myself.

However, this year I’ve been absolutely strapped for cash so when needing new clothing, faced with a choice of buying something cheap and nasty from a supermarket or buying fabric and making it myself, I’ve chosen the latter. It’s definitely worked out cheaper (especially when using stash fabric or free fabric in return for reviews) and is much more fun than traipsing round shops trying and failing to find what I’m after.

So, I realised at some point this summer that the only things I’d bought, clothing-wise, in 2017 were footwear and a couple of bras–not something I felt confident making at the time. I still didn’t give myself a RTW ban and have since bought a winter coat (no time to make one) and had the present of a jumper from my mum, but that’s been it for the whole year. Woohoo! I feel really good about what I’ve acheived and it was all the more fun for being my choice each time, rather than the result of a self-imposed rule.

Last year’s goals

I also wanted to reflect a little on how well I met last year’s goals:

Make a pair of jeans – I didn’t exactly make a pair of jeans, but I made a pair of pedal pushers in stretch denim, so that’s almost there. Partially achieved, and I think the only thing that stopped me moving onto jeans proper was getting pregnant!

Make a proper button-up shirt – again, I’ve been working up to this by making some woven blouses with buttons and poppers at the front. Partially achieved for pretty much the same reason as above!

Get more creative and experimental with knit fabrics – Definitely achieved! See knit fabric point above.

Plan my makes much more carefully, making sure they’ll fit in with the rest of my wardrobe and that they’re the kind of things I really want to wear – Also definitely achieved. See journalling point above.

Get my own sewing room again, and make it really cute and practical – I’m still waiting for this one. Andy is making good headway on the new bedroom and promises me it will be ready by the time the baby comes, but I won’t be able to create the sewing room straight away as Gabriel’s current room will probably need to be a nursery for a while. Unless the baby sleeps so well it can go straight from sharing with me and Andy to sharing with Gabriel, that is. I can but hope! For the moment, though, I’m making my space at the end of the living room work for me, and I’ve vowed to keep it tidier and less cluttered this year.

Anyone else taking part in the #SewingTop5 challenge? Or are you doing your own kind of yearly round-up? Please do share your links in the comments so I can come and have a gander!

My first Minerva Craft Blogger post!

Cosy Cabled Knitted Cowl for Minerva Blogger Network

Blog posts–they’re like buses, aren’t they? I make you wait ages and then you get two blog posts in two days–and probably one a day for the next few days too 🙂

Anyway, today is my debut as part of the Minerva Craft Blogger Network. I’ve done a few projects for the regular Minerva blog over the summer, but I was thrilled to be asked to join the blogger network proper. That means that every month I’m given a budget to shop with on the Minerva site, and I’ll share my makes there on the 28th.

My first make is a knitted cowl, bizarrely enough. I don’t do much knitting, but I do enjoy it and I want to get better, so I figure the only way to do so is to stretch myself and try new things. This was my first go at cables, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out 😀

Check out the full post over on the blog, and here are links to the products I used, should you be interested in grabbing them yourself:

Erika Knight Maxi Wool in Geranium (2 hanks for £7.59 each)

Knit Pro Basix Birch Circular Needle (£5.99)

Clover Cable Needles (£3.19)

Stylecraft Ladies Scarves and Cowls pattern (£2.99)

(all affiliate links)

Now, I know some people are suspicious when bloggers use affiliate links and review products they got for free, and I used to be one of them. However, since Minerva are a company I was buying from before I ever got any freebies, I’m very happy to have this arrangement with them, and it allows me to make things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to make. I will always give my honest opinion in reviews and point out the pros and cons, should there be any. I find other bloggers reviews helpful, so I’m happy to be able to spread the word about books, patterns, fabrics and the like.

Affiliate links are something I’ve started doing this last year and so far I haven’t made much from them. Basically, if you click through on an affiliate link and make a purchase I will make a very small referral bonus, at no charge to you. I started putting affiliate links up because I was spending lots of time writing blog posts, but had hardly any money to buy fabric and patterns. I figured that if the blogging could in any way help support my sewing hobby then that would be great. Perhaps at some point in the future my affiliate links will start bringing in a bit of money, and as they’re quick to set up I’ll keep going with them for the time being. If you don’t like them, you can always find the products I’ve linked with a quick Google search. I’ll happily provide a non-affiliate link for you in the comments if you’re having trouble finding anything. Just let me know 🙂

Right, that’s all for now. If you have any thoughts on bloggers using affiliate links and reviewing freebies, then please do share. I’m always really interested to discuss this sort of thing.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the first of my #SewingTop5 posts. Until then, happy sewing!

The Party Animal Dress – a maternity Agnes dress pattern review

Party Animal maternity bodycon Agnes Dress Tilly and the Buttons

Hi everyone! I’m here to provide a little distraction from post-Christmas mayhem (or whatever it is you choose to celebrate at this time of year) with my first proper bit of maternity sewing on the blog: a party dress made with the new maternity version of the very popular Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top/dress.

Believe it or not, this is my very first maternity dress make. I was into dressmaking when I fell pregnant with Gabriel, but because of my inexperience with and general fear of sewing knit fabrics, I thought most maternity sewing patterns looked too much like hard work. Since having Gabriel, however (3 years ago this week–doesn’t time fly?!) I’ve truly embraced sewing with knits and now prefer sewing them to wovens. Continue reading “The Party Animal Dress – a maternity Agnes dress pattern review”

The Winter Cords: Ottobre Ever Grey Boys Corduroy Pants sewing pattern review

Ottobre corduroy Ever Grey boys trousers, issue 4/2011

I don’t make much for my kids, I’ve got to admit. I used to crochet and knit for Daisy when she was a toddler, but I now find so little time for crafting that I’m pretty selfish with the little bits of time I do get. However, every now and again one of the kids needs and/or wants something that I either can’t track down to buy, or can’t afford when I do. This is one of those occasions.

I’ve had these cords on my sewing list since Gabriel was born as they caught my eye when looking through this old Ottobre magazine (one of only two that I own), but a well-timed gift of some roomy, lined corduroy trousers from my mum two years back meant I didn’t end up making them. I figured I had better make them this year as Gabriel is now at the maximum size they go up to, and after two years in the last pair he’d finally grown out of them! The pattern is for unlined trousers, but after the success of those lined cords I hunted around for a tutorial to add a snuggly jersey lining, and found this really helpful one.

The materials are all from my stash, and are leftover from old projects. The needlecord is beautifully soft but quite thin, so the thick interlock lining is really needed for a pair of winter-ready trousers. Plus I’ve discovered the lining has the added bonus of completely absorbing any little “accidents” Gabriel has. Okay, so they’ll still need changing, but at least everything is contained and I won’t need to clean the carpets. In unrelated news, we will be replacing our pale carpet with wooden flooring at some point in 2018!

Now, if you’ve never encountered Ottobre Magazine before it’s a Finnish publication that comes out six times a year. Two issues feature women’s patterns but four of them are kids patterns with around 30-40 designs in each and a good mix of clothes to fit different ages (newborns to teens) and plenty of unisex designs along with those that are more obviously suited to girls. I haven’t bought the women’s magazine before but I know Dawn from Two on, Two Off often sews them up. Many of the patterns are for jersey knits and the styling in the inspirational shots is always cute.

That’s the good–now what about the bad?

Well, first up, this is one of the pattern sheets:

Yeah, if you’re colourblind you’re not even going to want to attempt to find your pattern in amongst this lot! On the plus side, the patterns are all full sized and can be traced off. However, you will need to add your own seam allowance (hem allowance is usually included, and the pattern instructions will let you know if this is the case and how much seam allowance to add). I’m not averse to adding a seam allowance to a pattern and I always trace anyway, but I can see this would be a major stumbling block for some sewists. One thing I would definitely recommend if you are attempting to do this is to invest in one of these incredibly useful drafting rulers (affiliate link)–I wouldn’t want to attempt to add seam allowances without mine! I believe those over the pond can get hold of them with imperial measurements too.

Another downside to Ottobre patterns is the instructions. They’re perfectly sufficient if you’ve been sewing a while and have experience with the particular type of garment you’re making, but there are no illustrations and the text is fairly minimal. I’ve now made two Ottobre patterns (the first was Gabriel’s sleepsuit) and apart from the odd headscratching moment I’ve found they go together really easily, but your mileage may vary.

On to the making of these… It was pretty straightforward on the whole. I did have one annoying moment when I realised I hadn’t flipped the pattern piece when cutting out the knee sections, but luckily I had just enough fabric left in my scraps to cut another. Phew! I was worried that I might have to go for an entirely different fabric on the knees, which I suppose could look cute but I like the all-corduroy vibe, and the knee sections are different enough with the cord being cut on the cross grain. Here’s a close up pic to show that, as you’d have to really squint to see it in the rest of the pics!

It was interesting to see just how differently the cross and straight grain of the fabric behave when sewing them together. The cross grain really is so much more stretchy, and it was challenging to get the seams to match up as I was sewing. Luckily my walking foot could cope with it, but if you don’t have one I’d recommend doing some serious basting before sewing those seams.

There was a lot of topstitching in this pattern so I swapped around some of the construction steps so I didn’t have to swap needle and thread too often. Note to self: I really must get my second sewing machine operational! I did have a few issues with my topstitching thread tension and ended up flipping over what looked like a perfectly sewn row of topstitching to find this horrible old thread nest on the back:

Yeah, that was fun to unpick!

The front “pockets” as specified in the pattern are just two lines of topstitching to look like pocket openings, although the back patch ones are functional. I would have liked to make proper pockets at the front too as Gabriel does like to put stuff in them (not so good when it’s unwrapped chocolate from his advent calendar, admittedly), but with all the bulk of the lining to factor in I decided it would be making life too hard for myself. I vetoed the belt loops for the same reason, but would definitely do both if making an unlined pair for sprint/autumn.

As for the lining, I simply traced myself new pattern pieces for front and back by piecing together the main pattern pieces, minus any seam allowance where they’re joined. No way was I piecing all those seams for something that wouldn’t get seen! It was incredibly simple to sew the lining in and I’d recommend following that tutorial for anyone who wants to try upping the warmth level of an existing pair of elastic waist trousers.

Here’s a few more pics of Gabriel modelling his trousers on a properly muddy day:

Gabriel's Ottobre corduroy trousers 3
Best view I could get of the back. Sorry!

Gabriel's Ottobre corduroy trousers Gabriel's Ottobre corduroy trousers Gabriel's Ottobre corduroy trousers

My only real criticism of this pattern is the sizing, and that’s my fault for not paying close enough attention to what Ottobre’s sizing chart was telling me. The size 92 fits him fine for waist, outseam and height–he’s a centimetre taller, but his outseam is two centimetres shorter so they’re long enough. He just has most of his height in his body rather than his legs–just like his mum and his big sister!

However, the size 92 specifies a 58cm hip whereas Gabriel only has a 53 centimetre hip measurement. I scratched my head a little at this but figured I could just take the trousers in if needed. I’m guessing that this measurement must be to fit over cloth nappies, and Gabriel no longer wears any kind of nappy during the day, which has resulted in a pair of trousers that are much baggier in the leg than I’d ideally like. I just think he looks cuter in a slim fit, much like his dad does! I’ll definitely pay more attention to leg width in any future trousers I make him.

I doubt I’ll make these trousers for Gabriel again as this is the largest size they come in, but I’d definitely be up for making something in a very similar style with a skinnier leg. And who knows, maybe I’ll dust the pattern off for child #3 when they’re big enough. It starts at a pretty small size so I could get a fair bit of use out of it over the next few years!

The deets

Pattern: Ever Grey Corduroy Pants from Ottobre Kids, Autumn 4/2011

Size: 92cm

Fabric: Some leftover yardage from very old projects. One lot of brown needlecord I’ve also used to make this Osaka Skirt, and some tan cotton interlock to line it.

Modifications: Added the jersey lining for warmth, and omitted the belt loops.

Time to sew: 2 hours 48 minutes (this doesn’t include pattern tracing, cutting out, threading up machine, trying on for fit purposes, and general waffling!)

Costing: 

  • Pattern: £8.29 (I can’t actually remember how much I paid for the magazine, but that’s what the average back issue goes for on their site at the moment)
  • Fabric: £0.00 (not counting this as it’s all leftover from old projects)
  • Notions: £1.60 for topstitching thread
  • Total: £9.89

Not a bad price for warm and snuggly winter trousers, and the cost will go down if and when I make more patterns from this magazine.

Other inspirational versions: It’s not easy to find this pattern reviewed in English anywhere online (with the exception of these plain grey ones here), but I did track down a few girly versions on sites that are written in French and German:  these cute ones with the star applique and some in an eye-watering patterned corduroy!

Have you ever sewn an Ottobre pattern? If so, how did it go? And are you a mainly selfish or selfless sewist?

Disclaimer: some of the products linked above use affiliate links, meaning if you follow the link and make a purchase I will receive a small referral fee (at no added cost to you). Any extra income to help fund my sewing habit is greatly appreciated, but rest assured I only recommend products I love and think you might find useful too 🙂

Coming up next on the blog: Hopefully I’ll be sharing my leopard print Agnes dress–if I can get the sizing sorted out by the weekend. I’d better, as there’s a party I want to wear it to!

Party Animal Agnes dress - maternity version

November round-up and December’s sewing plans

November trees

This has been a weird old month. Not only is there the whole pregnancy thing throwing a spanner in my sewing plans, but Gabriel decided to give up his afternoon nap. That means he’s gone from napping 2-2.5 hours every day, to nothing, just like that! Oh yes, and not only have I lost my sanity time to get things done (including sewing), but he’s been throwing wobblers about random things as he’s tired and grumpy. Is it any surprise I haven’t been blogging?! Continue reading “November round-up and December’s sewing plans”